A study of fundamental limitations to statistical detection of redshifted H i from the epoch of reionization

Nithyanandan Thyagarajan, N. Udaya Shankar, Ravi Subrahmanyan, Wayne Arcus, Gianni Bernardi, Judd Bowman, Frank Briggs, John D. Bunton, Roger J. Cappallo, Brian E. Corey, Ludi Desouza, David Emrich, Bryan M. Gaensler, Robert F. Goeke, Lincoln J. Greenhill, Bryna J. Hazelton, David Herne, Jacqueline N. Hewitt, Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, David L. KaplanJustin C. Kasper, Barton B. Kincaid, Ronald Koenig, Eric Kratzenberg, Colin J. Lonsdale, Mervyn J. Lynch, S. Russell McWhirter, Daniel A. Mitchell, Miguel F. Morales, Edward H. Morgan, Divya Oberoi, Stephen M. Ord, Joseph Pathikulangara, Ronald A. Remillard, Alan E E Rogers, D. Anish Roshi, Joseph E. Salah, Robert J. Sault, K. S. Srivani, Jamie B. Stevens, Prabu Thiagaraj, Steven J. Tingay, Randall B. Wayth, Mark Waterson, Rachel L. Webster, Alan R. Whitney, Andrew J. Williams, Christopher L. Williams, J. Stuart B Wyithe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Scopus citations


In this paper, we explore for the first time the relative magnitudes of three fundamental sources of uncertainty, namely, foreground contamination, thermal noise, and sample variance, in detecting the H I power spectrum from the epoch of reionization (EoR). We derive limits on the sensitivity of a Fourier synthesis telescope to detect EoR based on its array configuration and a statistical representation of images made by the instrument. We use the Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) configuration for our studies. Using a unified framework for estimating signal and noise components in the H I power spectrum, we derive an expression for and estimate the contamination from extragalactic point-like sources in three-dimensional k-space. Sensitivity for EoR H I power spectrum detection is estimated for different observing modes with MWA. With 1000 hr of observing on a single field using the 128 tile MWA, EoR detection is feasible (S/N >1 for k ≲ 0.8 Mpc-1). Bandpass shaping and refinements to the EoR window are found to be effective in containing foreground contamination, which makes the instrument tolerant to imaging errors. We find that for a given observing time, observing many independent fields of view does not offer an advantage over a single field observation when thermal noise dominates over other uncertainties in the derived power spectrum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalAstrophysical Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 10 2013


  • dark ages, reionization, first stars
  • large-scale structure of universe
  • methods: statistical
  • radio continuum: galaxies
  • radio lines: general
  • techniques: interferometric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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